Daryl Horgan says Zenit test helped Dundalk adapt to international standard

"When you play the likes of Zenit with 17 internationals, you do adapt a bit quicker."

Daryl Horgan says Zenit test helped Dundalk adapt to international standard

Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle have credited their Republic of Ireland call-ups to Dundalk's unlikely Europa League exploits.

The Lilywhites, who were crowned SSE Airtricity League champions for the third successive season last month, currently sit in second place in Group D behind leaders Zenit St Petersburg on four points from as many games and with a genuine chance of progressing to the next stage of the competition.

Winger Horgan and central defender Boyle have played key roles in the club's success, and that has not gone unnoticed by Ireland boss Martin O'Neill, who included the pair in his initial squad of 35 and then the final 28 for Saturday's World Cup qualifier in Austria.

Both men are aware of the step up in class that would involve, but are confident their European experience will serve them well.

Horgan, 24, said: "Playing in the Europa League has definitely helped. The style of football would be more akin to international football than probably the League of Ireland itself, so that will definitely help.

"When you play the likes of Zenit with 17 internationals - I think, they have - you do adapt a bit quicker, so hopefully that will help."

Several players in O'Neill's squad - Seamus Coleman, James McClean and Kevin Doyle to name just three - have started their careers in the League of Ireland before rising to prominence after moving to clubs in England.

However, Horgan believes he and Boyle have proved that Irish-based players can still make it to international level.

He said: "The level we are playing at at the minute in the Europa League, if you do go to the England and the Championship, it's very, very unlikely that you will play at that level ever again.

"I think we have shown as a team at Dundalk that we can compete at a high level, and that there is a lot of quality in the League of Ireland.

"Obviously, there are six or seven more League of Ireland players in the squad as well, so the proof is in the pudding in a sense that there is a lot of quality in Ireland.

"Maybe you need to go away and prove it, but I think in a sense this year, we have proved that you can compete when you are playing in Ireland."

While Horgan, who has been linked with Sky Bet Championship leaders Newcastle, has been on the fringes of the squad, 25-year-old Boyle's call-up came as a surprise.

He said: "I had no contact with Martin or (assistant manager) Roy (Keane). I suppose it fell down to myself and trying to perform as best as I can and give the coaching staff and the manager a headache.

"I think the European games have definitely helped. It was probably difficult for them to pick us on the League of Ireland games, but the Europa League games have helped and being able to compete at that level where we got into the group stage - it wasn't about just being there and making up the numbers, we wanted to compete and try to get out of the group.

"I think that performance in Europe has definitely helped the manager and the coaching staff see the level we are at."

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